30th July 2015
You couldn’t go on the internet last week without hearing about it. Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift went head-to-head on Twitter and the social media world was at war, either being on #TeamNicki or #TeamTaylor. Here’s a quick recap on what went down:
- Minaj wrote a series of tweets (that didn’t name anyone specifically) but pointed out that she was being overlooked for award nominations because she is a “different” type of artist and, if she was mainstream, she would probably be nominated for doing the same thing that “other” artists do. Minaj did not name Swift in the tweets, although some Swifties say that it was obvious Minaj was referring to Swift because of her tweet which said “if your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year”.
- Swift replied to Minaj, saying that Minaj had targeted her and was uncharacteristically pitting women against each other.
- Minaj corrected Swift and invited her to join the discussion about race and the music industry. Swift missed Minaj’s underlying point about racism in the music industry and interpreted the argument as a personal attack against her.
- Minaj got the final word in by comparing Swift taking on Spotify and being praised to Minaj, Beyonce and other black artists who were criticized for being associated with Tidal.
- Minaj favourited loads of tweets that supported her argument and pointed out why she thought Swift’s actions were wrong.
- Kim Kardashian “accidentally” tweets a picture of her with that infamous Kanye outburst as the caption. She later took it down, claiming not to know anything about the Twitter feud.
- Katy Perry, Queen of Cultural Appropriation, gets involved with a backhanded yet valid tweet aimed at Swift about capitalizing on rivalry between women.
- Swift goes quiet and later apologises in a tweet directly to Minaj. But Swift still didn’t seem to recognise or truly understand that as a black woman, Minaj has a harder time in the music industry than Swift will ever have, which was the underlying point of Minaj’s rant.
As a woman of colour, I am #TeamNicki on this. However, I do like Taylor Swift’s music and, in all fairness, Minaj probably did indirectly point to Swift’s video, ‘Bad Blood’, being nominated because the video does indeed feature a plethora of slim women. However, Minaj was making a general point and it is one that a lot of women of colour seem to face – we are often overlooked. Had Swift actually been an ally of Minaj’s, she would have stepped in and spoken in favour of Minaj, acknowledging her own privilege as a white woman and then commenting positively in accordance with Minaj’s tweets. If she was an ally, she would have agreed that yes, Minaj and other black women and women of colour face more hardship than white women in the music industry.
Following the Twitter spat, many began to accuse Swift of being a white feminist and not an intersectional feminist. Many expressed that they didn’t believe that Swift particularly cares about the struggles of being a woman of colour because she is a white, privileged woman and cannot truly empathise with the specific struggles black women face in the music industry.
Before any “but Beyoncé got nominated” comments are mentioned: this is also missing the point. Yes, Beyoncé got nominated and, my god, she deserves it and then some! But Minaj’s point was that on the whole, black women face a great deal of struggle in the music industry because of their blackness, which is something that they should certainly never have to hide or apologise for.
Minaj was trying to call out the institutional racism that still runs within the foundations of MTV and other music companies. And she was trying to call on white women to try to understand the plight of women of colour in music. If we compare white and black women in music, it’s clear that there are still traits of racism in the industry. Katy Perry appropriated black culture and was considered cool and different for doing so. But as soon as someone like Minaj does something inspired by her own culture, she is branded as “hood” and viewed negatively.
Swift, by responding to Minaj in an egotistical way, completely missed the point. In that situation, what Minaj really needed a tweet from her friend supporting her and other black women in the industry, and not a tweet from Swift that twisted Minaj words, changed the intent and meaning of the message she was trying to get across, and attempted to make Minaj out to be the bad guy.
I’m not saying Nicki Minaj is without her faults and no one’s feminism is ever 100% perfect. I even wrote a piece critiquing ‘Anaconda’ and I stand by that. But at least Minaj’s feminism is more inclusive than Swift’s.
It can sometimes come across as if Swift almost bends feminism to suit her. Even if she doesn’t mean to be this way, her views can be problematic and then some.
The most ironic thing about this Twitter storm is that Swift tried to call out Minaj for pitting women against other women just because Minaj was calling out a very evident truth – that white women are appreciated and acclaimed more than black women in the music industry. I can’t help but think, how can Swift accuse someone of that when ‘Bad Blood’ is seemingly all about women rivalry and she’s making ridiculous amounts of money from it? ‘Bad Blood’ is all about women against women. And although I abhor Katy Perry, she made the exact same point in her (all be it poorly worded) tweet and she does have an extremely valid point that Swift essentially capitalized on the concept of pitting women against each other.
Moreover, why can’t Minaj call women out if they’re being problematic in terms of their feminist views? It doesn’t mean she’s pitting women against women. It just means that she is trying to educate and share with other women to encourage them to learn and attempt to understand more about the struggles of women from other cultures and backgrounds.
Swift used her version of feminism to belittle Minaj’s initial argument, which was valid and something that any woman of colour has experienced at least once. Swift waded into an argument that she didn’t fully understand and tried to make it about herself. She then apologised which Minaj graciously accepted and since then, the situation has been diffused. However, I think a mere apology and no other effort to understand the issue isn’t going to be enough. I truly hope Swift learns from her mistakes, reads up about intersectionality and the plight of black women and other women of colour, stops listening to white feminism and truly makes an effort to empathise with the struggles that black women face everyday.
Her apology should be just the beginning of Swift learning about real, intersectional and all-inclusive feminism. Perhaps the next time she tweets, she’ll check her privilege.
(Originally Published on CultNoise Magazine – currently under reconstruction)